After Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward sent the defending-champion Boston Bruins home for the summer with his overtime goal in Game 7, a number of fans unleashed racial slurs toward Ward following the loss.
The Bruins released a statement on their web site Thursday regarding the racist comments:
“The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.”
Here are a few of the tweets from fans after Ward's goal, courtesy Black Sports Online.
Warning: These tweets are NSFW and contain strong language.
Here is the video of Ward's overtime goal, as called by Capitals radio announcer John Walton.
Ward responded to the racist tweets, telling Kevin Allen of USA Today:
"It doesn't faze me at all," Ward said. "We won, and we are moving on. … People are going to say what they want to say."
"I think it is just kids," Ward said. "It has no effect on me whatsoever. I've been playing this game long enough and I've not had any encounters of that nature."
I would agree that many of these tweets are from kids who are not mature enough to refrain themselves from this behavior.
While that doesn't make the behavior any less wrong, it highlights a problem with today's social media. Anyone can publicly express their thoughts on a certain situation without thinking, and many of these individuals, whether they are kids or not, don't think there's any consequence to their actions.
Not all Bruins fans took part in the racism seen on twitter following Game 7, which is important to understand. There's no reason to label a fanbase of millions of people based on the actions of a small number of fans.
Ward also told USA Today that a lot of fans have supported him:
"I'm definitely getting a lot of support," Ward said. "There have been a lot of Boston fans who have supported me, which is very cool to see. No hard feelings from me. This is a game."
It's normal and understandable to be mad after a heartbreaking Game 7 loss, but this sort of hatred is not the proper way to express one's frustration.
This situation involving Ward is just another example of fans taking the outcome of sports way too seriously. Fans often send vulgar letters, make hateful comments via Twitter, and even send death threats to athletes as a result of sports games.
Ward's agent, Peter Cooney, responded to the racism on Twitter, saying via The Globe and Mail:
“It’s appalling,” he said. “Where we are in North America now, it’s hard to believe we still have that prejudice. It’s disturbing. It’s really disgraceful.”
Cooney added that Ward is doing his best to ignore the comments.
“He’s put it in his back pocket, so to speak,” Cooney said. “He knows he’s going to have interviews and people talking about it. He’s heard about it, but he said ‘Peter, don’t worry - that stuff never bothered me.’"
In today's world of Twitter and other forms of social media, these vulgar comments and racism, while despicable and hateful, are unfortunately expected from fans after sporting events.
Fans need to understand that voicing their opinions on Twitter will be heard, and the people that the message is intended for will be affected.
The level of respect among players, as well as fans needs to improve for the sport of hockey to prosper. Even though there's a lot at stake in the Stanley Cup playoffs, at the end of the day, it's just sports.
There's no need to ruin what's great about sports with these kinds of racist comments.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and has covered the team firsthand throughout the season. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.